Parents' Guide to

Tell My Story

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Suicide prevention docu offers revealing, actionable advice.

Movie NR 2021 85 minutes
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Taking 85 minutes to watch this documentary could actually save a kid's life. Jason Reid thought he was doing everything right -- he had a fun, loving, engaged relationship with Ryan -- and he was completely blindsided by Ryan's death. Some similarly themed documentaries focus on giving the lost child's life meaning, but here, Jason is looking for substantive answers. He partners with Mariangela Abeo, a photojournalist behind a project that collects stories of loss. She guides Jason on his path to hear different perspectives from both young people who attempted suicide and their parents, both of whom offer helpful insights. What's remarkable is that the kids really do open up and share their raw feelings of being unable to escape the dark places they've dwelled in. It's clear they're mustering all the courage they have to speak out in hopes of providing the lifeline they wish someone had been able to offer them.

Collecting both anecdotal and data-driven information, Jason provides sobering statistics and real-world advice. He and other subjects have moments of processing their emotions on camera, but the film as a whole isn't meant to make you cry. It's meant to prompt parents and caregivers to examine their children's behavior -- and their own. The world, and adolescents, have changed, and some parents aren't up to speed on risk factors or signs of trouble. Kids who have suicidal ideation may very well not show it; they could appear happy. And the behavior that many might name as hallmarks of excellent parenting -- communicating with kids, being an active part of their lives, and making sure they know they're loved and supported -- may not be enough to keep some kids afloat. The movie argues that, thanks to social media, the world around kids is now louder than their life at home -- and there's no respite. Technological connectivity may be eroding their personal connectivity, which can have harmful effects. Tell My Story isn't a slickly produced film: There's some quirky editing and some lags, and it's lacking some of the artistry that could take it from advocacy to pop culture status. Some of its ideas are solid, and some are more in the realm of spitballing, which means they may need thoughtful consideration of how they might apply to individual kids. But the information delivered is so powerful that it feels like mandatory viewing.

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